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Parole Board too Hard on Inmates?

A prison watchdog group says Illinois' longest serving prisoners aren't getting a fair shake at parole.

Most of the prisoners in Illinois never really come up for parole like you see in the movies. But there are about 300 prisoners called C-number inmates who do come before the prisoner review board every year and try to convince them that they're rehabilitated and should be set free. These inmates were all imprisoned before 1978, when Illinois had different sentencing laws. Shaena Fazal with the John Howard Association says many of them are now harmless senior citizens but they still can't make parole.

FAZAL: They're pretty safe to be around right now even if they've committed some heinous crimes the point is that they've rehabilitated themselves over the years and there's no longer a point in keeping them incarcerated.

Fazal says the prisoner review board focuses too much on punishment and not enough on whether the inmate is rehabilitated. Prisoner review board chairman Jorge Montes says that criticism shows the board is doing its job. He says people on the right think they're too lenient and people on the left think they're not lenient enough.

I'm Robert Wildeboer, Chicago Public Radio.

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